Tips for Being Productive- Home Office


1. Start out organized!  Know what you need to accomplish, set goals, keep lists.  The best piece of advice I have is to read and follow Stephen Covey’s advice on setting goals in Seven Habits for Highly Effective People.  The book changed my life!

2. Do NOT wake up and go straight to work!  Start the day properly. Have a good breakfast, spend some time alone to just sit and do whatever. Relax, let your mind wander. Pray. Just make sure that your mind isn’t in the “I hate working” frame of mind.

3. Don’t work an eight hour day. Work in four blocks of an hour and a half, with a 20 minute gap between each. If you do more than that, your attention might start to wander, you’ll be restless and your work won’t have it’s normal level of quality.

4. No turning on the computer for a quick email check or to do 1 little thing until you’ve gotten “ready for work” as mentioned above. The nuance is if you have nowhere to be, that 1 little thing leads to showering at 2 in the afternoon with a splitting headache because you’ve forgotten to eat etc.

5.   Begin forming diligent work habits from Day 1: if you allow yourself to lay on the couch and watch TV instead of working, this will become
your habit. Instead, develop a routine that will find a balance between getting the work done and enjoying your home office. That routine might include:

  • Showering and dressing before you work (you’re more productive that way).
  • Making a list of the 3 things you want to accomplish today.
  • Starting on the first thing on that list before you check email.
  • When you finish a task on your list, reward yourself with something fun. 

6.  Put an old fashioned egg timer on the desk. When I start a long or boring project, I’ll set the timer at 15 minutes, and no matter what happens, I’ll force myself to take a break when the alarm goes off. At first I thought the timer will (a) stress me out or (b) distract me. But it turned out to be a great idea. I often procrastinate because I hated doing long and boring projects. But if I promise myself a 15 minute break no matter what, I’m much more likely to be productive.

7.  Firewall your attention. Depending on your sensitivity to interruptions, this could be as simple as closing a door, or as complex as configuring software to keep you from browsing the World Wide Time Sink when you’re supposed to be working.  Get a door you can close. Make sure you can shut yourself off from the daily grind at home. It’s very tempting to work in the living room or have your spouse or kids come in every time for some fun or little questions. Make the agreement that when the door is closed, no one is allowed in.

8.  You have to approach it like a “real” job. If you wouldn’t wear your pajamas to work, you probably shouldn’t wear them to work in your home office.

9. Have a good lunch.  Puts you in the mood for the second half of the day.

10.  Define your spaces; separate work from home. Have a room dedicated to working. Don’t do it wherever you happen to be. Set aside some space, preferably a room (it doesn’t have to be big) to be your workspace. That way, when you enter it, you know consciously what you’re there to do: go to work. It changes the state of mind from “I’m at home” to “I’m at work”.

11. Set regular hours, and stick to the schedule.

12.  Close the door.  It’ll be very easy to leave the door to whatever room or space you set apart to be your workplace open. Don’t do it. If the door is open, that represents something to you, and to your family. To you, it represents the idea that if it’s a bit tough, or you don’t feel like working today, you don’t have to. To your family, it represents the idea that Dad is around, and I can go and talk to him.

13. Keep your desk and general work area tidy. A tidy workspace helps keep a tidy mind, which helps make your day more productive.

14. Turn off the telephone when you need to work without distraction. Turn off IM and email notifications too. In fact, if possible, shut off the Internet.

15. Don’t go back to work when you’ve finished. Had a great idea for a post? Fantastic, write down the basics on a note, and pin it up. Don’t go back to work when you’ve finished.

16. Don’t allow work to consume your life. Easier said than done when working from home. Make sure you set limits for the amount of time you will work.   Be grateful you’re working from home and not in some cubicle! That gratitude will motivate you to work harder, so you can continue to work from home.


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